Thailand, Malaysia &
Common Tree Nymph
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - DANAINAE
Tribe - DANAINI
The subfamily Danainae, which includes the
Monarchs, Tigers, Crows and Tree Nymphs, comprises of about 190
Danaines are thought to be distasteful to birds. Their bodies
contain toxins which are derived from the lactiferous larval
foodplants, and are often supplemented by further toxins sequestered
from adult food sources.
The bright wing patterns
"advertise" these unpalatable qualities,
in much the same way that the bands of yellow and black of wasps
advertise the fact that they can sting. Consequently any bird that
suffers the highly unpleasant experience of tasting a Danaine is
unlikely to attack other similarly coloured butterflies.
Effectively, a few individuals are sacrificed for the good of the
species as a whole.
There are 12 Idea
species, of which 5 occur in West Malaysia i.e.
stolli. The other 7 species are found variously in India, Sri
Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, Sumatra, Borneo,
Sulawesi, Irian and Papua New Guinea.
Tree Nymphs are
very large butterflies, characterised by having translucent white
wings patterned with black veins, and numerous oval black spots.
They are noted for their slow and very graceful flight, which gives
them the appearance of white handkerchiefs floating gently on the
occurs in West Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, Sumatra and Java.
This is a relatively common species occurring in primary and
secondary rainforest and cloudforest at altitudes between sea level
and about 1200m.
The egg is
melon-shaped and hexagonally pitted, with a flattened base. It is
laid singly on leaves of Agonosma (
caterpillar black, with a series of broad white transverse bands,
and has bright pink lateral patches on the 2nd and 7th abdominal
segments. It has a pair of long black filaments extending from each
of the thoracic segments, and a shorter pair on the anal segment.
These filaments probably disseminate pheromones that may function to
ward off predators or parasitoids.
© Henry Koh
spent many happy hours watching this beautiful species at various
sites in Sarawak and Sabah. The butterflies have a very slow and
extraordinarily graceful flight. In the mornings they habitually
ascend to the tree tops to feed at
or Eugenia flowers. In late afternoon
they "parachute" very gently down in groups of up to half a dozen,
weaving and circling until they settle, typically on a large leaf
several metres above ground level.
The slow flight might be thought to make
them easy prey for birds, but like all Danaines
Idea are poisonous or highly unpalateable to birds and are not
often attacked. The slow flight is their method of advertising the
very distinctive pattern, which birds, through past experience,
associate with a very unpleasant taste.
sunny conditions males usually rest with the wings erect or partly
open, ready to take flight to intercept potential mates. In cool or
cloudy weather they are more relaxed and can sometimes be found
feeding at flowers at the side of roads in hilly country. When feeding
they tend to slowly flutter or fan their wings, but when settled on
foliage they will bask with wings fully outspread.